Written by Gillian McCulloch, founder of Tom Ro Haven for Equines and Children
Bonny and Flash’s story is true; they, together with the other incredible horses at Tom Ro Haven for Equines and Children, continue to heal and love people and each other every single day…
A glimpse into Bonny’s old life
Cars screaming past, trucks belching smoke, people shouting and gesticulating to the pony cart’s driver as the beautiful chestnut Welsh pony struggles, her cart laden with heavy scrap metal. Her golden mane and tail are tossed about in the brutal South Easter. The driver cracks his whip, hits her, forcing her to carry on, despite the fact that her legs are beginning to buckle as she struggles up the hill.
Once there, she tries to catch her breath, only to be forced on, cars and trucks narrowly missing knocking her over. She makes it to the owner’s scrapyard, and drops her head in utter exhaustion and despair. She is eventually led to a stone shelter with a little bit of water and straw as both bed and food.
The little chestnut mare who could
That was the daily life of a Cape Flats carthorse named Bonny – one echoed by many around South Africa. Everything changed one day when she was hit by a car and thrown across the road, still attached to the cart, and her neck was broken… She was taken back to her shed, where she was left to either live or die. But the stalwart pony did not die. Slowly, her bones knitted and she started to move. Although her neck had broken, her spinal cord was intact, which is why she was still able to walk. Her spirit refused to surrender. Her neck healed, although it wasn’t straight as before – which meant she could no longer work. Sadly, children started coming to torment her, throwing stones and laughing as she tried to run away with her strange crab-like gait, neck at a funny angle and a hump. Eventually, Bonny was surrendered to the Tom Ro Haven for Equines and Children.
When Bonny arrived, she was greeted by the sight of beautiful paddocks, green grass, and horses and ponies running free and healthy. There was plenty to eat and no one was hobbled or tied up. At first, she was nervous – Bonny is a shy, slightly skittish girl – but, by approaching her calmly, softly, she relaxed. Slowly, but surely, Bonny started to enjoy the gentle attention of the loving staff at Tom Ro, and, despite her strangely bent neck, which means she can never raise her head, she flourished.
How an abused, misshapen pony helped others to heal
One day, a group of boys from impoverished, broken backgrounds arrived. Like the horses at the haven, they too had suffered abuse, loss and fear. They were taken into the paddocks to see the horses who, being highly empathetic animals, could surely feel their anxiety and sadness. At first the boys were terrified, but, with help from the staff, they tentatively touched the muzzles of the horses, who dropped their heads in order to connect with these troubled souls. Bonny, too, wanted to connect. The children came into her paddock and were shocked by her injury – yet motivated by the fact that, despite her obvious signs of abuse and recent neglect, she still had so much love to give.
The children, who had suffered so much in their own lives, sat on the floor as Bonny touched them softly one by one. But she was drawn to one little boy, sitting isolated and hunched over. She went to him in her crab-like, hunched way, placed her head on his bowed head, and gently nickered. Slowly, skinny arms came up; they lightly touched her misshapen neck and then wrapped around her. Hot, pent-up tears began to flow as he clung to her, allowing his hurt and despair to pour out. Later, it became clear why there had been such a connection: the boy, too, had a hunched back and had suffered abuse and neglect in his life – Bonny had instinctively given and received the love and understanding they both longed for.
A new life for Bonny
All along, Bonny had a secret – growing inside her was a new life. At first, people assumed she was just getting plump on all the good food, but it soon became apparent that, actually, this brave survivor was pregnant. When the time drew near for Bonny’s baby to arrive, everyone was worried: could she safely give birth with her misshapen neck and back? Would she need medical intervention? How would she manage?
But this tough Welsh pony surprised them all: overnight, in the quiet of her stall while everyone was asleep, she gave birth to a perfect charcoal-coloured foal. When her stable door was opened the next day, there she was, comfortable and happy, her baby boy by her side. They named him Flash. Bonny is an excellent mother, protecting him from bigger horses, and the two will live the rest of their lives at this incredible place of safety and hope.
To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 021 701 3040, visit their website at www.tomrohaven.org.za, and follow them on Facebook at ‘Tom Ro Haven for Equines and Children’ and on Twitter @TomRoHaven. Bonny has her own Facebook page: ‘Bonny Tom Ro Haven’.